Just as the first installment of this top-100 list was the least controversial, we ratchet up the drama in numbers 26-50. Now is the time to get down and dirty. If you’d like to read more about my methodology, read the intro to Nos. 1-25. It would be a good primer because it really starts to be put to the test when you mix an 18-year-old with a 34-year-0ld. Also, when you take a top-six shortstop and almost drop him 50 slots because he changed his position back to third base and changed home ballparks.
The following 25 assets have at least one of every position. That’s right — both a catcher and a relief pitcher are in here. Enjoy.
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I’m sold on Gerrit Cole’s breakout after leaving Pittsburgh. I’m convinced that he will be a top-five pitcher for at least the next three years. Being in Houston, too, means he’ll just hoard wins now that the Astros have a better bullpen. Cole is ranked above Jacob deGrom for two reasons: 1) age, that is self-explanatory and 2) he is dominant in the American League. I am a firm believer that not all dominant National League pitchers can dominate in the AL but all dominant AL pitchers can NL. I’ll take the guy who mastered the more difficult competition first.
I’m the first to admit it: I’m wrong about Trevor Story. I thought either he wasn’t going to be able to cut it or he was going to get pushed out of the way by Brendan Rodgers. It appears that neither one of those is going to happen. The only thing that still concerns me about Story is leaving Colorado, where his numbers turn from top shelf to the bargain basement. If he were putting up these numbers wearing literally any other uniform, he would be almost 15 spots higher.
For as much as I like him, deGrom represents the type of player I want to avoid in dynasty drafts. It is difficult to tell when his transition from ace to post-prime will happen, and it could happen very quickly. I can’t tell if deGrom has been getting very lucky with runners on (he didn’t allow a hit with the bases loaded in all of 2018) or he’s really good at turning it up when he needs to. Either way, that is the type of luck/skill that goes first with any slight decline.
Strictly speaking, I believe Noah Syndergaard is the most talented pitcher on this list. That is why it pains me to watch him throw nowadays. Notice, I do not say that he pitches. To me, Syndergaard is still a thrower, but there is still time to develop into a pitcher. That time is running out, but it’s still there. If he’s still giving up more hits than innings pitched in 2019, I might have to drag one foot behind this bandwagon, but for now, I refuse.
This is a pretty simple equation: How many years do I reasonably expect J.D. Martinez to put up near-MVP caliber seasons? Three. I do not feel as strongly about any three seasons of anyone below (with perhaps the exception of Wander Franco), so despite Martinez’s age, he’s here because these next three seasons weigh more than four, five or seven of many of the following players.
I’m going to lay it out on the line: Franco is my No. 2 prospect behind Baby Vlad. He’s the next big thing. What is his ceiling? It’s hard to tell for sure, but at this point, I’m going with “Juan Soto with plus speed — and sticking at shortstop.” Too few lists actually give top prospects the value they truly hold in the leagues to which they are supposed to giving advice. Before you scoff at how high Franco is, let me ask you this: If you had him in a dynasty league and somebody offered you Paul Goldschmidt, would you really do it?
Now that Josh Hader is closing games, does that increase his value to me? No. I’ve always ranked Hader on his ability as a reliever regardless of what role he’s in because he’s valuable regardless of what inning(s) he pitches. His strikeout rate, WHIP and ERA are the best out there. The rest is background noise. I know the saying that relievers are volatile, but if you can get this man, scoop him up. The saying should be “relievers are volatile, but Hader is glorious.” Trust me, he’s going to make your good rotation a great one.
33. Eloy Jimenez, OF, Chicago White Sox, Age: 22
If someone offered me Eloy Jimenez for Max Scherzer in a dynasty league, I would take it. I’m not sure if this is a controversial opinion, but I feel like it is. The mix of power and OBP Jimenez represents is rare at any position. He has the potential future of a cornerstone hitter for any dynasty team and should be valued accordingly.
How many pitchers on this list have the ability to win two or three Cy Youngs in their career? Scherzer could do that in the next two or three years. I weigh that very highly despite the fact he’ll turn 35 in July. Scherzer is so good that he can carry your team’s pitching for the next three years because of his efficiency and the number of innings he’s likely going to pitch. I’m not sure I can say that about any other pitcher on this list.
Think of Goldschmidt as the hitter version of Scherzer. Not literally. Goldy is probably not going to be the best hitter in the next two to three years, but he could be the best first baseman that entire time. He also could win an MVP in one of those years. Another 1.000 OPS season isn’t out of the question before he retires. There aren’t many hitters who can even do that, let alone those manning first.
Even with a decline in power and speed in 2018, Jose Altuve remains the top second baseman in the league. He’s capable of slashing .320/.400/.500 with 20/20 for each of the next three years. There isn’t even a second base prospect with that ceiling (with the possible exception of Vidal Brujan). Take Altuve if you can get him and worry about the future of second base later because what you got there today will not be replicated.
What this means is if somebody offered me Forrest Whitley for Chris Sale, I’d do it. I know — exactly one year ago that would sound insane. Let’s put this another way: Can you guarantee that Sale will be more valuable than Whitley this year? After watching Sale top out at 95 mph on Opening Day, I can’t make that guarantee. Whitley could be up before the All-Star break, giving him a full half-season either in the rotation or the bullpen while Sale figures out how to have a Justin Verlander-like career resurgence.
There is one thing I know about Giancarlo Stanton: He’s got a ton of power. Another thing I know about Stanton: He’s only hit 40 homers once in his career. When power is your only thing and you have trouble turning it into a ton of home runs — for whatever reason — I have a problem with that. Now, part of the problem has been freak injuries cutting his seasons short. I don’t care. Stanton will turn 30 at the end of 2019. Do you think his he’ll somehow become more durable as he ages? Also, a guy with a career .268 average and a 28% strikeout rate is just asking to decline quickly.
Usually, I’m not one to completely change a player’s dynasty value after one week, but that happened with Sale. As fragile as he was down the stretch of 2018, there are legitimate concerns about his health and now his potential when healthy. Sale needs to be operating at 95 mph and capable of ramping up to be successful right now, and he’s currently not that pitcher. Now, this could all change, and he could shoot right back up this board with two good starts. Sale is probably the only player on this list with that kind of volatility for me.
40. Mike Clevinger, SP, Cleveland Indians, Age: 28
Sometimes guys get hurt, and that affects their spot on this list. Sometimes guys get old, and it affects their spot on this list. Sometimes I realize I’m an idiot, and that affects their spot on this list. Mike Clevinger is a late bloomer, really coming into his own in 2018, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be an ace. Judging from his last season and a half, he’s on his way to being there, which is something you can’t say about many pitchers. Even if you only get two to three seasons of an ace out of Clevinger, that still puts him in the top 10 percent of pitchers.
41. Trevor Bauer, SP, Cleveland Indians, Age: 28
Here’s a list of things I don’t like about Trevor Bauer, in no strict order: 1) He talks an awful lot … 2) … for only being good one year. 3) He’s never thrown 200 innings. 4) In his only good year, 2018, he posted career bests that were so dramatic from his norm (such as a hits per nine innings rate cut from 8.5 to 6.8 and an home runs per nine innings rate cut from 1.1 to 0.46) that I find it hard to believe that they are sustainable. Yet I can’t stop thinking he’s one of the 50 best assets out there. And Bauer really needs to repeat these to be successful because his career WHIP is 1.30. I don’t care how many strikeouts you rack up, you’re not going to be able to hold off offenses when allowing that many base runners on average.
I can see an argument for Gleyber Torres being ranked higher than Altuve. He can hit for power and average, and he’s a half-decade younger. He doesn’t have the speed on the bases you would like from a middle infielder, but he has the potential to be a Francisco Lindor type minus the stolen bases. Without the speed, Lindor isn’t an elite player, and I don’t expect Torres to be, but he’s a top-five second baseman for a decade.
Anthony Rendon is the first of what I consider the third-tier of third baseman — that is how deep the position is now just for 2019 but for the immediate future as well. If Rendon were not such a great fielder, he might not be ranked this high. What I mean by that is he’s much more likely to stay at third base than many of his contemporaries because of his fielding. He’s not as good of a fielder as Matt Chapman, Nolan Arenado and Manny Machado, but he is next highest on that list. And unlike Machado, Rendon has posted multiple .900 OPS seasons. And he has such a high ceiling that there is potential for more.
Speaking of high ceilings, Machado took a dump on his when he decided to move to Petco Park. It’s not just because of the park, that analysis would too lazy, even if it is true. It’s also because he chose to play for a team that doesn’t need a shortstop. If you can’t tell by the nine entries so far in just the first half of this top-100 list, third base is loaded right now and for the foreseeable future. By moving off short, Machado went from being top three at his position to being around top eight, in my opinion. Who is a better fantasy baseball third baseman than Machado in dynasty leagues? Jose Ramirez, Alex Bregman, Vladimir Guerrero, jr., Kris Bryant, Nolan Arenado, Anthony Rendon — that’s six, and there are about four others (Eugenio Suarez, Matt Chapman, Nick Senzel, Miguel Andujar) who could be just as good as him in a given year going forward. My ranking of Machado is definitely the largest discrepancy (so far) between my list and other dynasty lists, I understand that. This ranking has nothing to do with his slow start — other than it was predictable. I fully anticipate at least a mild (5% to 10%) drop off across the board to his production because of his new home ballpark. Why? Because when playing in Camden Yards, a hitter’s park, Machado’s relied on those friendly confines to boost his numbers. His career splits were:
|Career Home (Camden)
If you’ll notice, almost every number drops around 10 percent when Machado was away from Camden Yards — in a over 900 game sample. Maybe he’s just more comfortable at home, right? Machado has now moved to a ballpark that is worse for hitters than the average away ballpark. We are already seeing how that home park is affecting his performance, with nearly every stat significantly worse (at least -10%) at home than away. Sure, laugh at the small sample size, but if it’s so insignificant, why hasn’t he hit better at Petco Park?
Even in Baltimore, he never really lived up to his hype offensively, unless you consider his 96 games in 2018. In those games, Machado slashed .315/.387/.575. That is the Machado everybody thinks of when they draft him in the first two rounds. What they really get is a guy with only one career .900 OPS season. That season happened to be in a contract year. Who would have guessed?
45. Eugenio Suarez, 3B, Cincinnati Reds, Age: 27
Now we’re at the tail end of the third-base portion of the list … and Suarez seems like a perfect fit here. Was his 2018 (.283/.366/.526) a breakout of a fluke? I don’t think it was, given he’s picked up in 2019 where he left off. Either way, he’s still pretty good, pretty young and hitting in maybe the best ballpark of any other third baseman not named Arenado. Still just 27, there is time for Suarez to improve, and I think he will bring down the strikeout rate and we’ll see more walks. Time will tell.
I believe in Jameson Taillon’s new repertoire. It might not mean great strikeout numbers (that will only happen if he leaves Pittsburgh), but it will mean a more stabilized baseline that we can count on from his tremendous talent. It’s very possible that the addition of his slider could produce four more seasons like the one he posted in 2018 (3.20 ERA/1.18 WHIP/8.43 K/9). There could even be a few more after that, if Taillon either gets traded from the Pirates or leaves, much like Cole. I don’t know what it is, but the Pirates do not know how to maximize their pitchers’ abilities. whether that is because of pitch sequencing or pitching philosophy.
The only thing that I don’t like about Nick Senzel has nothing to do with Nick Senzel. It has everything to do with the Cincinnati Reds messing around with the best talent they have to fit whatever immediate need arises. With a player as good as Senzel — who could develop into a 70-grade hitter — why are you messing with so many positions for him just because you can? He has shown that he has nothing left to prove in the minors as a hitter and that he can play any position in the infield that you want. So call him up and make him a super utility while he learns center field in spot starts and practice. Don’t tell me in the age of giving guys days of rest and all the injuries ballplayers now have that you can’t find five games a week for a guy who could be your best hitter in two years.
48. Gary Sanchez, C, New York Yankees, Age: 26
Gary Sanchez represents the best immediate and long-term hope for a catching asset in dynasty leagues. We are all hoping he can reach a batting average/OBP of .240/.333. If that doesn’t happen in the next year, however, Sanchez will drop significantly in these standings because of performance and the emergence of multiple promising catching prospects. Still, none of those prospects (except maybe Joey Bart) has the power potential to hit 40 home runs as a catcher.
49. JT Realmuto, C, Philadelphia Phillies, Age: 28
While Sanchez might offer power and age, JT Realmuto offers everything else. If you’re looking for more consistency in your catcher spot, Realmuto is your man. You can reasonably expect him to hit .280/.340/.800-plus for the next two years, which is something you can’t say about anyone else in the world. Why isn’t he higher in the rankings? Unless you’re prime Buster Posey, no catcher will crack the top 20 of this list. They don’t play enough games, and their careers are too short.
Speaking of gambling and bad second halves, enter Luis Severino. While everybody seems to be concerned with Chris Sale and his arm/shoulder, I’m not hearing anything of the sort about Severino, who was unplayable from July on in 2018:
To say that he was hittable in July/August/September is putting it mildly. He may have kept his strikeout rate the same the whole time, but he gave up almost as many home runs in the second half (nine) as he did in the first half (10), throwing half the innings. His batting average against also jumped 80 points. Now we hear that he has rotator cuff problems without making a single spring start? On top of that, he’s not a big guy and has a significant effort in his delivery. Any one of these things would concern me about his future, but not enough to drop him below the Aaron Nola/Cole/Syndergaard level. All of them put together, and I’m not touching him, but that doesn’t mean he does not have an extremely high upside for the next few years.
(Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)